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From seed to tree: Lessons from 10-year journey

BY: Baaba Cofie & Esi Asante Antwi
Picture credit: Shutterstock
Picture credit: Shutterstock

Penniless, yet courageous, passionate about Public Relations (PR) and communications, determined to succeed and with unflinching faith in God, two young women — Baaba Cofie and Esi Asante Antwi, started their own business; a PR agency called Mahogany Consult. Ten years on, this agency ranks among the top PR consultancies in Ghana. They share 10 lessons on their entrepreneurial journey.


Entrepreneurship is a lifelong journey. Does this statement ring a bell? “ … for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” This is the life! The passion and drive, the strong belief in that business solution, the willingness and heart to sacrifice in the midst of challenges should not die. You cannot quit!

Yes, you cannot quit because the decision to become an entrepreneur lies beyond the realisation of your personal dreams and aspirations and assumes societal relevance! Why?

Because that idea which birthed the business is the solution to a pressing need in society. It creates employment and a livelihood for the people you employ and their families who depend on them. The taxes you pay are critical to government’s revenue generation and consequently, national development.

For us in Ghana, one sure path to securing our economic future is to build resilient and thriving local businesses for wealth creation and deliver on employment opportunities for our teeming youth.

The beauty of growing successful, made-in-Ghana businesses is that our profits are ploughed back and invested in the country.

Your business is a national asset! Entrepreneurship is about patriotism!

Build your capacity

If we are to succeed and refute the commonly held belief that most start-up businesses do not survive beyond the first five years, with only 25 per cent of such businesses making it to 15 years or more, then we need more than passion and a sense of patriotism to weather the storms! We need to build our capacity as entrepreneurs to understand every facet of the business we run. So let’s learn about business administration, new trends, improve our people management skills, understand finance, get mentorship and coaching in leadership to scale our business along its milestones.

No matter how well we build our capacity as entrepreneurs in leadership and business management, it becomes imperative at a point to constitute a board or an advisory committee to ensure accountability, good governance, inject new ideas and a clearer focus for the business beyond the ideas of the entrepreneur and business owner. And importantly to hold you, the entrepreneur, to account!

Jack of all trades?

By all means, have a solid understanding of the various aspects of the business but avoid being what we popularly call in Ghana “a one-man thousand” and learn to rope in as quickly as possible the support of ancillary services such as communications, human resource, finance, IT and operations into the business for complete growth. Just as your customers come to you for a unique business solution, seek the expert counsel of these other professionals to grow your business professionally.

Endeavour to do legal business! If you want to grow into a successful big business, then ensure that you comply with all the necessary regulatory requirements. Register your business. Pay your taxes. Pay your employees’ social security benefits.

Research indicates that many SMEs in Ghana are not tax-compliant. Choose to be different.

People, your greatest asset

Invest in your staff! Finding the right employee can be challenging. While a CV continues to be a key and indispensable tool in determining qualification for a role, we have learned that the attitude, values system and soft skills of the applicant are equally essential. Learn the right balance.

And after hiring, treat them well but also learn to sanction where necessary so that together, you create a working environment that enables them to be productive. Remember, without employees, you cannot serve that cherished customer!

Network

Don’t be an island! Proactively make friends with other entrepreneurs in your line of business to benchmark, share knowledge and to learn new business trends. Joining relevant social and business groups, locally and internationally, can generate business leads, enhance business visibility and expand your network. Build and use your social capital to the max!

Innovate, change, re-invent.

The world continues to evolve daily. Brainstorm with your staff, clients and vendors on how you can improve your service delivery. Technology is one key driver of change and innovation. How digitised is your business? What software applications can you incorporate into your business to make work easier? Can you diversify? At what point in the business? Ask these questions often.

Tell your story

Finally, tie everything together - what you’re doing personally, as an entrepreneur, in your business with your staff, clients and customers and other strategic partners, experiences, successes, milestones, innovations and failures - beautifully with strategic communications. It is the key to building a strong brand. This will shape positive perceptions about your business and contribute to building a robust reputation to drive your business’s success.